Should you leave the lights on for your dog?

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Should you leave the lights on for your dog?

Is it necessary to leave the lights on for your pup when you leave him alone at night? Here’s the lowdown.

Leaving our dogs at home by themselves is never easy – and it’s even harder at night! But whether you’re working the late shift or staying out late with friends, sometimes leaving your canine companion alone in the dark is unavoidable. On those occasions, should you leave the lights on?

Can dogs see in the dark?

This is a common question, and the short answer is yes – to an extent. Dogs can certainly see in the dark better than we can, but it’s generally thought that dogs don’t have the night vision prowess of their feline counterparts.

Dogs and cats have evolved with larger pupils and with a greater number of light-sensitive cells (rods) in their retinas which allow them to see better in the dark. A dog’s biggest sight advantage, however, is called the tapetum – a mirror-like structure that reflects light. Although the light is more scattered and degrades the quality of sight somewhat, it does allow for greater scope of sight in low light. The tapetum is what makes your dog’s eyes glow in photos or when light shines in his eyes.

So, yes, your dog can see fairly well in low light. However, in total darkness, dogs cannot see. If they are in a familiar environment, they can make their way around from memory like we do, but in new surroundings they will stumble around just as we would.

Should I leave my dog alone in the dark?

All this said, it’s best not to leave your dog alone in the dark, especially not for extended periods of time. As discussed above, while they can see okay in low light, complete darkness is the same for them as it is for us – except that we can choose to turn the lights on when we need to move around, and they can’t!

Also, just like us, some dogs are afraid of the dark. Here are some signs your pooch is afraid of the darkness:

  • Barking or whining
  • Hiding somewhere unusual, like a bathroom
  • Nervousness/startling more easily than during the day
  • Becoming destructive when left alone in the dark (chewing/tearing things up etc.)

Some of these signs can be similar to separation anxiety, and these two conditions can co-exist. But chances are if your pup only displays these behaviors when the lights are out at, he’s got a fear of darkness.

How much light should I leave on for my dog?

A simple nightlight or two in your dog’s favorite areas of the house will usually do the trick. You can either choose a manual one or one with a sensor that comes on when motion is detected. It’s usually a good idea to leave a couple lights on when you’re out of the house anyway – it’s an excellent burglar deterrent, particularly if your dog is much cuter than he is intimidating!

Depending on how long you’re out, you may want to invest in a light timer. If you won’t be home in time to turn the lights on when it gets dark, you can set a timer to do it for you.

Puppies are no different than adult dogs when it comes to darkness. They can’t see well in it, and it might make them a bit nervous! The bottom line? No matter how old your canine companion is, keep your house lit if you leave him alone!